LONDON PROPERTY MARKET IS WORKING ITS GLOBAL REACH HARD

31.05.17

I guess not many would disagree with the opinion that the Brexit referendum decision is the most significant political event to have occurred in the UK in decades.

Yet despite the ladles of 'WE'RE DOOMED' pessimism dished out since last June - the widely predicted immediate economic crisis hasn't materialised. In fact, the UK economy is estimated to have grown by 1.8% in 2016, the second-highest growth rate among the leading G7 countries.

Although transactional activity slowed in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, the investment market has proven to be more resilient than many predicted.

The first quarter of 2017 has seen further sustained activity, with a record level of £5bn poured into the London office market - Chinese investor CC Land's purchase of the Cheesegrater being the most notable.

Savills has attributed a staggering 84% of Q1 London office transactions to non-domestic investors. Chinese and Hong Kong buyers have been especially notable, investing more than any other foreign investors during this period, many of them making their first forays into the UK market.

So what are the factors that are apparently causing overseas buyers to put aside Brexit fears in the race to deploy capital in the UK?

The UK continues to be regarded as a safe haven for foreign capital with its transparency and robust legal framework continuing to sustain confidence - this has been particularly the case for core long-income central London assets, as well as some prime regional locations.

The fall in the value of sterling has also made the UK even more appealing for opportunistic buyers.

There's no doubt that the snap general election decision has caused many investors to hit the pause button until after 8 June. Some deals that are in train at the moment have also become more sticky.

Although the election result will not bring immediate clarity on the precise terms of a Brexit deal, it will potentially give the next government a clear mandate to negotiate in an orderly fashion the best exit terms for the UK. On the flipside - if sterling recovers - the UK may lose some of its allure to foreigners.

We're also starting to see an increasing number of UK-based tenants, particularly in the financial services sector, rooting out other European locations as a hedge against the Brexit negotiations.

These may not necessarily be legal commitments at this stage, but we still need to keep our wits about us - the threat is there.

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